For the 28th year, Warren Haynes hosted the all-star Christmas Jam last night in Asheville, North Carolina. The benefit for Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity featured a typically impressive array of performers and performances on the stage at U.S. Cellular Center.
Pianist Holly Bowling got the evening underway with solo piano interpretations of Grateful Dead and Phish favorites including “The Other One” and “Taste.” Bowling reappeared at various other times during changeovers between acts throughout the show. The stage was then turned over to the host for a solo Warren Haynes set.
Frequent collaborators Jamey Johnson and Alison Krauss were up next. Their set featured Johnson singing lead on Krauss’ hit “When You Say Nothing At All” and the duo performing his “In Color.”
The Meters bassist George Porter Jr. fronted a funky ensemble made up of guitarist Eric Krasno, keyboardist John Medeski, drummer Terence Higgins and saxophonist Branford Marsalis. Porter told the crowd they were going to remain “disgustingly funky” and did so with takes on “Just Kissed My Baby” with Marcus King and “He Bite Me.” Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir joined the collective for a standout rendition of “Sugaree” and the traditional anthem “Iko Iko.”
Soul singer Michael McDonald was assisted by guitarist Audley Freed, bassist Don Was, Medeski and Higgins. Krasno was brought out for part of McDonald’s set, including a rendition of “Takin It To The Streets.”
Weir led a group composed of guitarist Steve Kimock, drummer Duane Trucks, Was, Haynes, Bowling and Marsalis. Bobby started off solo on acoustic guitar with “Easy To Slip” before dueting with Krauss on “Peggy-O.” Kimock, Trucks, and Was emerged for takes on “Ghost Towns” and “Only A River” off Weir’s Blue Mountain. Marsalis, Bowling and Haynes then filled out the stage for renditions of the Dead’s “He’s Gone,” “Eyes Of The World,” “Truckin’” and “Ripple.”
In celebration of the 40th anniversary of The Last Waltz, Haynes fronted special set that focused on the music of The Band. Joined by Medeski, McDonald and Was, as well as Higgins, Johnson, Krauss and a horn section, they worked up arrangements of “Up On Cripple Creek,” “The Shape I’m In,” “Georgia On My Mind,” “Ophelia” and “It Makes No Difference.” Weir guested on “The Weight” and Krauss added vocals to “Helpless,” while original Last Waltz performer, former Muddy Waters guitarist Bob Margolin was on stage for “Mannish Boy” and “Further On Up the Road,” along with harmonica player Smoky Greenwell.
Gov’t Mule drummer Matt Abts was attending to a family emergency and the band utilized Rocky Lindsley, Jeff Sipe and Trucks behind the kit during their closing set. Their guest-filled “and friends” performance saw further help from Mike Barnes, Paul Riddle, Kimock, Marsalis, Trucks, King and Greenwell on such selections as “Mule,” “32/20 Blues,” “Sco-Mule,” “Dreams” and “Mountain Jam.” Photographer Steven Limentani was at Christmas Jam, view his gallery below followed by officially shared footage from last night’s webcast.